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News Navigator: How has COVID affected jobs for people with disabilities in Japan?

A worker inputs data on a postcard into a computer in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Natsuko Ishida)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about jobs for people with disabilities in Japan at a time when some industries have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

    Question: I heard that in Japan, fewer people with disabilities have found jobs through "Hello Work" employment service centers. How have the figures changed in recent years?

    Answer: According to Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare survey results announced in June, people with disabilities secured 89,840 jobs in fiscal 2020 -- down 12.9% from the previous fiscal year. Factors including raising the legally required employment rate for people with disabilities and expanding the number of subject companies had helped fuel a series of record-extending figures up to fiscal 2019. In fiscal 2020, job numbers fell for the first time in 12 years.

    Q: Was it affected by the spread of COVID-19?

    A: Yes. Among the ministry of labor factors cited for the drastic decline in job openings was the coronavirus's effect on the hotel, restaurant and manufacturing industries, which are thought to be relatively easy for people with disabilities to apply to. Also, application numbers themselves were down by 5.1% compared to the previous fiscal year -- the first decrease in 21 years.

    Q: Were there also changes in jobs people with disabilities have?

    A: Remote working's rapid progress meant some companies including those contracted to print documents and clean conference rooms saw a drastic fall in work volume. At Tokyo-based Tokio Marine Business Support Co., a special subsidiary of the Tokio Marine Holdings group, sales figures in fiscal 2020 were down by about 40% compared to before the pandemic. Therefore, the company asked each of its business partner companies' departments for jobs, and took on work such as digitizing paper documents. Its employees with disabilities who used to have tasks including discarding unnecessary documents and delivering bento lunch boxes now have new roles, and sales this fiscal year are apparently trending toward recovery.

    Q: So, they turned a tough situation to their advantage?

    A: Yes. Nomura Research Institute Ltd. conducted a fact-finding survey about people with disabilities' employment last December and said in its report: "While work like office cleaning and in-house mail delivery will wane considerably, it is possible that electronic administration work will grow."

    (Japanese original by Natsuko Ishida, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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